In the News

Frankel calls for congressional Epstein hearings, wants Krischer, Bradshaw to testify

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Washington, August 27, 2019 | comments

By John Pacenti, Palm Beach Post

In an extraordinary development in the Jeffrey Epstein saga, dozens of U.S. representatives called for a congressional investigation into the “sweetheart plea deal” given to the wealthy pedophile that could produce public testimony in West Palm Beach of top law enforcement as well as victims.

Former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, State Attorney Barry Krischer and current Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw would be asked to testify, said U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, who spearheaded the request.

“We want public testimony, we want transparency, we want an explanation of how this happened,” said Frankel at a news conference Tuesday in front of the federal courthouse in West Palm Beach.

Under a secret agreement by federal authorities not to prosecute, Epstein ended up with a state jail sentence of 13 months and a requirement to register as a sex offender. The Justice Department had picked up the case because Krischer soft-pedaled the prosecution, Acosta has said

Bradshaw’s office has come under fire because Epstein was allowed to serve his time in a modified cell equipped with a television during 2008 and 2009. He spent up to 12 hours a day, though, on work release. When incarcerated, his jail cell remained unlocked.

Frankel said the 44 lawmakers signed an Aug. 21 letter requesting the chairmen and ranking members of the House Judiciary Committee and Committee on Oversight and Reform to hold hearings on the plea deal and give a forum for victims to be heard.

The Democratic Women’s Caucus led the effort to call for congressional hearings, said Frankel, D-West Palm Beach. The lawmakers who signed the letter want to know why immunity was given to Epstein’s co-conspirators by Acosta’s office and who exactly lobbied on his behalf.

“I have reason to believe very high-powered public officials lobbied on his (Epstein’s) behalf and I would like them to tell us who they are,” Frankel said.

Still, Frankel also said she was not making accusations and if there is a reasonable explanation then the public deserves to know that, as well.

“On its surface, it sounds to me that Mr. Epstein’s power and money, his influence people behind him overwhelmed the justice system,” Frankel said.

The sheriff’s office said Bradshaw was unavailable for comment and Krischer could not be reached.

Frankel said she expects subpoenas would be issued to those who wouldn’t testify willingly.

“We want witnesses to come and answer very, very simple questions,” she said..

The representative spearheaded the letter calling for hearings. There have been discussions for months with U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, chair of the Oversight Committee, she said. Frankel expects the green light in the next couple of weeks by the Oversight Committee to conduct hearings in West Palm Beach.

The Oversight Committee is the main investigative arm of the House and has the power to issue subpoenas and take testimony under oath.

“Law enforcement in this community owes the public a response: Why was Mr. Epstein given the deal he was given?” Frankel said

Epstein served much of his sentence at the Palm Beach County Jail on work release and then reportedly went back to exploiting teenage girls until his arrest in July in New York on sex-trafficking charges.

Epstein committed suicide in his Manhattan jail cell on Aug. 10.

Acosta resigned as labor secretary after renewed scrutiny on the nonprosecution agreement in the wake of the New York charges. On his way out he pointed the finger at Krischer, saying his office picked up the Epstein case only because of the state attorney’s less-than-zealous prosecution.

Krischer initially prosecuted Epstein after the Palm Beach police went to his office with five victims and eight witnesses who said the multi-millionaire recruited teenage girls, as young as 14, under the guise of giving him a massage at his mansion only to sexually molest or assault them.

Krischer, who served as state attorney in Palm Beach County from 1992 to 2008, first offered Epstein probation, which the financier rejected. Then Krischer’s office made the unprecedented move to go to a grand jury on a sex crime case and obtain a charge of felony solicitation of prostitution.

Frustrated, the Palm Beach police went to the FBI. A 53-page indictment was prepared, but then Acosta approved the nonprosecution agreement.

The case then boomeranged back to Krischer when Epstein pleaded guilty to the original grand jury charge and a solicitation of a minor for prostitution.

With more victims coming forward in 2018, federal prosecutors in New York in July charged Epstein with sex trafficking. After apparently trying and failing to commit suicide, jail officials admitted they didn’t adequately monitor Epstein and he hanged himself in his cell.

Gov. Rick DeSantis has ordered a criminal investigation but Frankel said that investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is more focused on Bradshaw’s work release program.

“We have many other questions that have to be answered,” Frankel said.

Besides the FDLE, the FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general have their own investigations.

West Palm Beach with attorney Jack Scarola, who represents some of Epstein’s victims, joined Frankel at the news conference. He said he is disappointed Krischer has chosen not to clarify his office’s charging decisions on Epstein.

“We don’t know why the local state attorney’s office chose not to prosecute Jeffrey Epstein appropriately in light of what was extremely compelling evidence of horrendous crimes that occurred over an extended period of time,” Scarola said.

“This community deserves to know why that choice was made.”

He urged Krischer to come forward now.

In New York on Tuesday, a number of women who said Epstein molested and raped them addressed the court in the new criminal case.

“The fact that I will never had a chance to face my predator in court eats away at my soul,” said Jennifer Araoz, one of the women, in a Reuters story about the hearing.

Scarola urged federal prosecutors to go after anyone who had aided Epstein in recruiting, scheduling or assisting him such as Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s longtime associate.

“I want to see every one of them brought to justice,” he said. “I want to see them held accountable and answerable for their participation in this terrible enterprise."

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